The Twins Are Making Other Teams Do All The Work
Image courtesy of © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY SportsI got into a Twitter argument the other day about the Twins. Typically this is far from a notable event but for the first time in the recorded history of the internet, I actually reflected on what was said in the conversation.
For context, here’s what I tweeted:
I really just wanted to dunk on Cleveland for the laffs because, well, it’s just so damn fun to do that. Some people however commented that the reverse could be true for both teams when it comes to pitching, thus supplying the rain for my parade. Of course, Cleveland can just magically make incredible starting pitchers appear out of thin air while people have been bitching about the Twins’ pitching development since the dawn of man.
The Twins have actually had a top three starting rotation by fWAR for two straight years now. The fact that people still find some way to be grumpy about that will never make sense to me. Anyways, I pondered this for a bit and soon realized that no one is actually correct. The Twins are actively avoiding using prospects in the starting rotation and they’re getting away with it.
You don’t need a bunch of stats to tell you that starting pitching is crucial in baseball. Numerous scouts and executives have dedicated their entire lives to developing starting pitching because it’s just *that* important, especially in the postseason. The issue is that young starting pitchers are notoriously volatile when it comes to both performance and injury. Some of you may have heard of the term “TINSTAAPP” which stands for “there is no such thing as a pitching prospect”. Usually this is said after a young fireballer goes down with a forearm strain and meets with Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Patience is key when it comes to these arms but competing teams don’t have the time needed to keep running these lotto tickets out on the mound. They need another option.
The Twins understand this and have acted accordingly.
Quick question; which two starting pitchers for the Twins in the Falvey and Levine era have both:
- Been solely drafted and developed by the Twins
- Thrown more than 60 innings in a season
The team has decided to make a number of established veterans the meat of their starting rotation. Players like Ervin Santana, Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn, Michael Pineda, Kenta Maeda and so on have been the main workhorses since 2017 (to varying degrees of success).
This is effective for two main reasons; the first of which is that, well, veteran talent is always going to be a safer bet than unproven arms. You can argue about the “upside” that certain young arms provide in the long run but a bona fide grizzled veteran provides the kind of 401K peace of mind that a 23-year-old can’t. The second perk is that you don’t have to shove a young arm into an uncomfortable situation unnecessarily. Some starters like Ian Anderson on the Braves have been able to flourish immediately but these are rare exceptions.
Having a balanced mix of talent acquisitions in the starting rotation has been a plan that other contenders have executed to success as well. Here’s a breakdown of the last three World Series winners and how they netted their top three starters:
(Starters are ranked by innings pitched that season)
- Stephen Strasburg - Drafted
- Max Scherzer - Free Agency
- Patrick Corbin - Free Agency
- Rick Porcello - Trade
- David Price - Free Agency
- Chris Sale - Trade
- Mike Fiers (awkward) - Trade
- Charlie Morton - Free Agency
- Dallas Keuchel - Drafted
Sure, maybe the Twins can’t shed the idea that they can’t develop starting pitching. But they don’t really need to. They’ve decided instead to focus on making safe bets on veteran starters and improving internally only when the situation calls for it. They have made other teams expend the energy needed to weed out successful pitchers and then they plunder who they want. It’s a proven system of success and the team has no reason to abandon this plan for the immediate future.
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